If you already dream of a perennial garden providing fresh fruits and berries throughout the year, red currants might be the perfect addition to your backyard.
Red currants can be planted from bare-root or container-grown plants and propagated through cuttings or layering, making them an excellent choice for a sustainable and low-maintenance garden.
This article will guide you through growing and caring for red currants, including tips on choosing the right location, pruning techniques, and the best ways to use this tangy and versatile fruit.
- What Are Red Currants?
- Planting Red Currants
- Caring for Red Currants
- Harvesting Red Currants
- Possible Problems When Growing Red Currant
What Are Red Currants?
Red currants are a type of small fruit that belongs to the genus Ribes in the family Grossulariaceae.
This family of plants includes other fruits such as black currants, gooseberries, and jostaberries.
Several red currants include Rovada, Jonkheer van Tets, Red Lake, and Cherry. Each variety has its unique flavor and characteristics.
Still, they all share the same tart and tangy taste, making them a popular choice for various culinary uses.
The fruits themselves are small, round berries that are typically bright red.
They grow in clusters on long, thin stems covered in thin, translucent skin. The flesh of the fruit is juicy and contains tiny, edible seeds.
Red currants are popular for baking, cooking, making jams and jellies, or eating fresh.
The flavor of red currants pairs well with sweet and savory dishes, making them versatile ingredients in the kitchen.
Red currants have a tart flavor similar to cranberries or sour cherries. Still, they also have a bit of sweetness that helps balance their tartness. The texture of red currants is another exciting aspect – they have thin skins and are juicy when you eat them. Their seeds add crunch to the texture.
Planting Red Currants
If you’re ready to add some red currants to your garden, the first step is to choose the right location for your plants.
Here are some key considerations.
Choosing the Right Location
Adhere to these requirements when choosing the location for red currants:
- Soil: Red currants prefer well-draining soil rich in organic matter. They also thrive in slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0.
- Sunlight: Red currants require full sun to grow and produce fruit. Look for a location in your garden that receives at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
- Temperature: Red currants can tolerate cold temperatures and even frost but do not do well in hot, dry climates. If you live in a warm area, consider planting your red currants in a spot that receives afternoon shade.
Follow these steps to plant red currants.
Step #1: Preparing the Soil
Before planting your red currants, prepare the soil by removing weeds or rocks and adding compost or other organic matter to improve soil structure and fertility.
Step #2: Transplanting or Seed Planting
Red currants can be planted from bare-root plants or container-grown plants. Alternatively, you can propagate red currants from cuttings or layering.
Space your plants at least 3-4 feet (90-120 cm) apart for proper growth.
Step #3: Watering the Plant
Red currants require regular watering, especially during the first year of growth.
Water deeply and regularly, keeping the soil moist but not waterlogged.
Avoid planting red currants near other plants in the Ribes family, such as gooseberries or black currants, to prevent the spreading diseases and pests.
Caring for Red Currants
Red currants need adequate watering and fertilizing to ensure healthy growth and a bountiful harvest.
Water your red currants deeply at least once weekly, especially during hot and dry weather.
The soil should be moist but not soggy, as red currants dislike sitting in water.
You can use a drip irrigation system or a soaker hose to ensure the water gets to the roots.
Red currants benefit from regular fertilization, especially in the spring when they start to grow.
You can use a balanced fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or 12-12-12 formula, or a fertilizer formulated explicitly for berries.
Apply the fertilizer around the base of the plant and water thoroughly.
Pruning is essential for maintaining healthy and productive red currant plants.
Prune your plants in late winter or early spring before new growth appears, removing any dead or diseased wood and thinning out the center of the plant to improve air circulation.
Harvesting Red Currants
Red currants are easy to harvest, but knowing when and how to do it is crucial.
Depending on your location and climate, red currants are usually ready to harvest in late June or early July.
Look for plump, bright red berries that are slightly soft.
Pick the berries off the bush to harvest your red currants by gently pulling them away from the stem.
Be careful not to crush or damage the berries. You can use a berry picker or your hands.
Red currants can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze them later.
To freeze, spread the berries in a single layer on a baking sheet and freeze until solid, then transfer to a freezer-safe container.
Possible Problems When Growing Red Currant
Like any plant, red currant can run into some problems along the way.
Here are a few issues you might encounter when growing red currants.
Pests and Diseases
Red currants are susceptible to a few different pests and diseases, including the following:
- Currant aphids: These small insects can suck the sap out of the leaves and stems, weakening the plant over time.
- Currant blister aphids: These pests cause raised bumps on the leaves, reducing the plant’s photosynthesis ability.
- Powdery mildew: This fungal disease can cause a white powdery coating on the leaves, making them less effective at photosynthesis.
To prevent these issues, watch your plants and take action if you see any signs of trouble.
You can use insecticidal soap or neem oil to control aphids, and fungicides are available for powdery mildew.
Soil and Watering Issues
Red currants prefer well-drained, slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.5 and 7.0. If your soil is too alkaline, you may need to add sulfur to lower the pH.
Overwatering can also be a problem for red currants. The plant doesn’t like to sit in water.
Ensure the soil is moist but not waterlogged, and avoid watering the leaves, as this can encourage fungal diseases.
Red currants must be pruned yearly to keep them healthy and productive. However, if you prune them incorrectly, you can cause more harm than good.
Here are a few common pruning mistakes to avoid:
- Pruning too early: Red currants should be pruned in late winter or early spring before new growth appears.
- Removing too much wood: Red currants should be pruned to remove old wood and encourage new growth, but removing too much wood can reduce the plant’s ability to produce fruit.
- Pruning too late: If you prune red currants too late in the season, you can accidentally remove next year’s fruiting wood.
Black currant is a rewarding plant with little maintenance.
However, remember to pay attention to your soil and watering habits and to prune your plants at the right time.
You can enjoy a bountiful harvest of these tart and refreshing berries with a little effort!